Zimbabwe: Wheat farmers await terms of bank loan

Farmers are awaiting further guidance from authorities following the temporary suspension of bank lending to the government and private sector, as they believe agriculture should be exempted if all farmers want to plant their winter wheat.

The General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union, Mr Paul Zakariya, said yesterday that the industry was still awaiting more precise details on the sectors exempted from the directive, as the current national drive to increase wheat production to ensure self-sufficiency was paramount.

While most borrowing farmers have already secured their loans, some are still waiting for a bank officer to visit their farm and sign them.

Mr Zakariya noted that some farmers were self-financing and that usually meant they had to borrow some of the money they needed for seeds, fertilizers, electricity and water, with CBZ and AFC Holdings being major lenders.

“Although most farmers have already secured loans and are busy planting wheat, some still have their loan applications under review as banks have been delayed in undertaking farm visits.”

Regarding the progress made in meeting the planned target for winter wheat, Zakariya pointed out that farmers were still busy with planting and they will be able to assess success in two to three weeks.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union chairman Dr Shadreck Makombe said farmers were busy planting and the actual wheat acreage could be known by the end of May.

Regarding the impact of the suspension of bank loans, Dr. Makombe pointed out that loan matters were confidential between the bank and the individual farmer, but due to its seasonal peculiarity, agriculture could not advance without loans.

He said farmers were waiting for more specific details from the government on how the policy would be implemented.

Zimbabwe National Farmers Union chairwoman Ms Monica Chinamasa said some farmers have yet to receive bank loans for winter wheat, aggravated by May 15 being the practical deadline to sow for optimal yields.

Optimal sowing dates for wheat range from the last week of April (in the Lowveld) to the end of May, although the highest yields are obtained when establishment is in the first two weeks of May.

Timely planting allows farmers to avoid freezing conditions during critical wheat growth stages such as flowering, and avoid heavy disease and pest pressure during the months of August and September when the crop is post-grain filling.

Early planting also allows the tillering stage to coincide with the low temperatures of June.

Low temperatures and even frost at this stage promote tillering.

Observing the planting window allows farmers to harvest their crop before the onset of the next rainy season because rain induces germination of wheat, thereby reducing baking quality.

As the country embarks on import substitution, increased local wheat production will result in foreign currency savings, create jobs directly at the farm level and indirectly from upstream and downstream industries such as flour mill, bakery and food outlets.

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